The Perennial Alternative

Episodes in the Reception of
Goethe’s Scientific Work 
by Frederick Amrine 


Goethe in the History of Science - Volume III
Adonis Press:  Now Available!
Book description

The Perennial Alternative is the ripe fruit of a long, lively, in-depth exploration of Goethe’s scientific work. Anyone who has begun to realize the significance of Goethe’s scientific approach for us today will find this collection of brilliant essays richly rewarding. 

Amrine brings us up to date on the current reception of Goethe’s scientific work and how it relates to the new paradigm of emergence and to such contemporary thinkers as Thomas Nagel, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gilles Deleuze, and Thomas Kuhn.

In a fascinating essay on the importance of Goethe’s Italian Journey for the development of his organic thinking, Amrine digs deep into his intimate knowledge of Goethe’s biography.  He also sheds new light on Goethe’s relationship with Spinoza’s philosophy and with Newton’s optics.

In “The Metamorphosis of the Scientist,” he articulates a central aspect of Goethean science, namely that, like all of organic nature, scientists evolve. Their understanding of the world evolves with them in the sense that, as Goethe put it, “Every new object, well observed and contemplated, opens up a new organ of perception in us.”

The collection also includes insightful essays on the work of contemporary Goethean scientists Jochen Bockemühl, Michael Wilson, and Wolfgang Schad as well as an excellent introduction to Schad’s life work, Threefoldness in Humans and Mammals.


1. Introduction 

2. Goethe’s Italian Discoveries as a Natural Scientist (The Scientist in the Underworld) 

3. Goethean Intuitions 

4. The Metamorphosis of the Scientist 

5. Methodological Issues Regarding the experimentum crucis 

6. Goethe and Steiner as Pioneers of Emergence 

7. Seeing Ideas: Goethe's Science and Modernist Aesthetics

8. The Music of the Organism: Uexküll, Zuckerkandl, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze as Goethean Ecologists in Search of a New Paradigm 

9. Readings in the Text of Nature: Three Contemporary Goetheans 

10. Goethean Method in the Work of Jochen Bockemühl 

11. Goethe’s Epistemology of the South 

12. Bibliographic Essay: On Some Important Works on Goethe’s Scientific Studies That Have Appeared Since 1990 

About the Author

Frederick Amrine is associate professor of German at the University of Michigan. He holds advanced degrees from Cambridge University and Harvard. His publications include Goethe and the Sciences: A Reappraisal, The Bildungsroman, and Literature and Science as Modes of Expression